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Justice Society: Getting to know the JSA for DC's Black Adam film

Inside the seminal history of the world's first major superhero team, the JSA

Justice Society of America
Image credit: DC

One of the strongest elements of the DC Universe is its sense of legacy, with superhero mantles passed down across generations stretching back the Golden Age of Comics in the '30s through '50s. The first and most well-known Golden Age superhero team in the DCU is the Justice Society of America, with the venerable ensemble still active in defending the world while mentoring the next generation of heroes.

And while the JSA have recently been restored to the comic book DCU, the big screen DC Extended Universe is about to add its own iteration of the team in the film Black Adam. As an added level of intrigue, the JSA’s complicated dynamic with the magical antihero suggests they could either be friends or foes to Adam as he finally makes his live-action cinematic debut.

Who are the Justice Society?

Justice Society of America
Image credit: DC

The JSA were created by Gardner Fox, Everett E. Hibbard, and editor Sheldon Mayer, making their introduction in the Winter 1940/1941 issue of All Star Comics #3. The team was composed of heroes in superhero titles released by All-American Publications and National Comics, the two companies that would merge in 1949 to form what became the modern DC Comics. The JSA would regularly battle a variety of supervillains, with their most insidious enemies forming a team of their own, the Injustice Society, in the 1947’s All Star Comics #37. The Injustice Society would quickly become the JSA’s most enduring opposition as they squared off repeatedly for the fate of the DCU.

As DC introduced new, more science fiction-oriented versions of its heroes in the Silver Age of Comics from the '50s to '70s, the JSA were established as existing in the parallel universe of Earth-2. The JSA and Earth-1’s Justice League would team up to defend the DC Multiverse regularly until 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, by Marv Wolfman and George Perez, merged a number of universes into a single composite reality. In this rewritten history, the JSA were reimagined as being in the same universe as the JLA all along, albeit enduring an extended period of inactivity after resisting a congressional hearing in the '50s to publicly reveal their identities.

While DC has cycled between sidelining the JSA or having them place a prominent role in the DCU, the team has consistently been depicted as being the elder statesmen superheroes of the shared universe for decades. Three pillars on the JSA that have been fixtures amidst all the roster changes are the Golden Age Green Lantern (Alan Scott), Flash (Jay Garrick), and Wildcat (Ted Grant). With their aging slowed through various superhuman means, the trio have formed the backbone of the JSA and serve as the figureheads for the team and the DCU’s Golden Age.

The Justice Society’s powers & abilities

Justice Society of America
Image credit: DC

Just like the Justice League, the Justice Society’s extensive roster provides a wide array of powers and abilities among its various members. Given their legacy status, there are similarities between the JSA and JLA in regards to the powers that they have at their disposal. Just like his modern counterparts, The Flash has super-speed just as Atom Smasher can alter his body’s size and strength in seconds not unlike The Atom.

Among the JSA, there is a greater emphasis on the supernatural than sci-fi, in comparison to the source of the JLA’s powers. Most notably, Alan Scott’s Green Lantern Power Ring is powered by the Green Lantern Corps’ Central Power Battery but fueled by the fiery magical force Starheart. Similarly, one of the major heroes on the JSA is Doctor Fate, a master sorcerer whose abilities are powered by the ancient Helm of Nabu.

Two other major heroes associated with the JSA slated to appear in Black Adam are Hawkman and Cyclone. While initially introduced in the comics as archaeologist Carter Hall, who discovered he was the reincarnation of an Ancient Egyptian prince and capable of flight through the use of rare Nth Metal wings, Hawkman’s origins were revised in the Silver Age. The modern Hawkman discovered one of his past lives was Katar Hol, a peacekeeper from the faraway planet Thanagar, effectively making Nth Metal extraterrestrial in origin.

Comparatively, Cyclone’s backstory is far less convoluted, with the teenage superhero Maxine Hunkel the granddaughter of the Golden Age Red Tornado Abigail “Ma” Hunkel. Maxine was experimented on by the mad scientist T.O. Morrow, with scientist’s nanotechnology giving Maxine the ability to manipulate the wind, fly, and control sound waves. Deciding to create the superhero mantle of Cyclone, Maxine joins the JSA and learns to hone her powers with the help of the team’s veteran heroes.

How the Justice Society fits in the DCEU

Justice Society of America
Image credit: DC

The JSA are set to make their big screen debut in Black Adam, with several of the team’s fan-favorite heroes confirmed to play a role in the film. Among the JSA heroes slated to appear in the film are Atom Smasher, Doctor Fate, Hawkman, and Cyclone. Each character has an extensive comic book history with the team, hinting at how they may interact with Adam in the DCEU film.

Of particular note, David S. Goyer and Geoff Johns’ run on JSA, Black Adam was reimagined into a much more sympathetic figure than committed supervillain. Adam’s backstory placed him from the nation of Kahndaq, serving one of Hawkman’s past lives before Adam gained powers of his own. After emerging in the present-day, Adam struck up a friendship with Atom Smasher, with the JSA member helping Adam seize control of Kahndaq from a brutal dictator. Though Adam was successful, this ultimately puts him at odds with the JSA over the violent means he took in order to reclaim power.

The other connection to the JSA and wider DCEU in Black Adam is in the magical Shazam! Family. Introduced in 2019’s Shazam!, Billy Batson and his foster family gained powers from the Wizard Shazam to transform into the World’s Mightiest Mortals. With Shazam and Black Adam sharing the same power source, the two have come to blows on multiple occasions, with Shazam occasionally serving as a member of the JSA. While there have been no confirmed reports of Shazam appearing Black Adam alongside the JSA heroes in film. It may only be a matter of time before the two magical titans collide in the DCEU.

The Justice Society of America is returning to comics this summer in both Dark Crisis #3 and a new Black Adam tie-in series, Black Adam: The Justice League Files.